Students discuss gender issues in “Frozen”

Catherine Hyman, Staff Writer

Students, faculty and community members came together in Lowrimore Auditorium, to attend a viewing of the movie “Frozen” and participate in a discussion following the movie on Oct. 20.

The film viewing and discussion were held twice, with one session beginning at 3:35 p.m. and the second at 7:30 p.m. Snacks were served between these two sessions at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

The English Film Series is an event featuring one lm and discussion in a sequence being held this year. Both the English department and gender studies of FMU sponsored the event.

According to the FMU visual and performing arts event page, elements that the planners of this event hoped would be discussed were gender issues, the cultural and artistic impact of Disney, the evolution of the Disney princess and what makes a popular movie into a cult.

Dr. Shawn Smolen- Morton, professor of English, and Dr. Pamela Rooks, professor of gender studies, were the faculty members who presented this event. The event began with introductions from Smolen-Morton and Rooks.

The audience then viewed the Disney lm, “Frozen.” Once the screening of this lm was complete, the audience dispersed to receive refreshments provided for the event.

With snacks in hand, a discussion of elements in the lm proceeded. Students and other attendees were invited to share any insights they had about “Frozen.”

The discussion began by Smolen-Morton asking if anyone had a question that would provide a starting point.

Rooks asked the rst question. She wondered why “Frozen” was so popular that it became similar to a cult in a way that other Disney movies such as “Tangled” did not. After debating, students decided that it was the modernity of the events, though not the setting, that made the movie popular.

Students brought up the facts that Elsa did not marry in the movie and that the love at rst sight between characters was not real. They felt this made it relevant to viewers.

“The true love that saves Anna is her sister’s love and not the love of a romantic partner,” Rooks said.

Rooks had other discussion topics, too.

“As time has gone on, the princesses have become less and less passive, and more and more strong,” Rooks said.

Audience members traced princesses through the Disney timeline as evidence of Rooks’ statement.

Another key point Rooks made was that in the early days of Disney, most strong female roles were villainesses, such as Maleficent and Ursula. She said Disney seems to have managed to give Elsa the fabulous, dangerous qualities of these villainesses without making her evil.

Smolen-Morten joined the discussion by asking a question.

“We see that the older films were pretty conservative relative to their time,” Smolen-Morten said. “But is this lm really doing anything more with femininity and with gender than our culture already allows?”

Dr. Lance Weldy, English professor, responded with a reference to something he showed to his class. On the Internet, he saw where someone had photoshopped the heads of Disney princesses to different princesses’ bodies to show how similar their body types are.

“As progressive as it is, they are still petite, with big eyes and long owing hair,” Weldy said. “So, how progressive are we?”

The “Frozen” event was a success according to both Rooks and Smolen- Morton. The attendance for the event was 106, which is approximately double the average for all of the films shown over the past nine years.

They agreed that the student involvement during the discussion was extensive. Smolen-Morton credited the participation level to students likely having seen the movie prior to the event.

According to Smolen- Morton, there were multiple goals for the event. One was to bring students into contact with the film in a way that they hadn’t before.

He wanted students to think about the lm, how the lm relates to their lives and how the lm works to make the audience feel certain ways.

“The event is oriented to support the education that goes on at FMU with real-world lessons,” Smolen- Morten said.